It works both as a vegetable and a herb. It has a wonderful flavor, one you should definitely try. At least once (and we almost guarantee it will be more than once). Here are the basics on cooking fennel as a beginner.
Do you ever feel like you get into a cooking and eating routine? I've been feeling that a little lately, and trying to switch it up. I mean, even people from the cafeteria are starting to lightly mock me because I keep ordering the same things. But it's not my fault! They're cooking the same things, and I am not a huge fan of most of them, after all. But that's normal in a way. There are some veggies everybody likes, there are limited types of meat and in trying to be efficient about cooking, we usually resort to the comfort zone. So let's step out of that comfort zone and find the magic beyond. Cooking fennel is a good entry point, I think.
Fennel is a wonderful veggie that's sometimes used as a herb, as well. So having a good 2-in-1 in your kitchen is not a bad deal. It has a slightly sweet and spicy flavor that's going to make your taste buds go just a little bit crazy. And it's quite a good deal to get it – you can use the head, but also the fronds and stalks. Learn more about the latter here.
How to choose fennel
This bulby food is in season right now, which is great news. You can find it year round, but it's better when fresh. But how to choose good veggies when cooking fennel? Make sure that the bulbs feel heavy and dense, with the layers tightly packed, with firm stalks. Avoid the bulbs with loose outer layers and limp or rubbery stalks.
How to store fennel
Don't detach the stalks and fronds from the bulb, because the fennel keeps better if the two elements are together. You can keep it in the refrigerator, in the crisper drawer. Just don't forget to wrap it in plastic, but give it a little bit of breathing room. You can keep it like that for about a week. If you don't have time to cook it, though, then it will keep for longer, just its outer layers will wilt a little or become rubbery. Remove those and you'll be golden.
Looking for a first fennel recipe to try? How about this rolled turkey breast with fennel and apple stuffing?
Cooking fennel: some delicious ideas
Cooking fennel is not really a complicated task. In fact, it's quite simple and you don't need a lot of prepping for that. First trim off the stalks, close to where they connect to the bulb. Don't forget not to throw those out! Then trim any tougher bits and cut the bulb in half, straight down through the root. Do the same thing with the two halves. Slice it crosswise with whatever thickness your recipe demands.
When you have the slices, you can already use them in salads, if you want, they're great raw. Add them to a cabbage and carrot coleslaw, with the crunchiness, the fennel will fit right in! Or you can pair it with some orange slices and radishes, for a fresh salad to go with your main course. It can be the perfect entree if you add some shaved parmesan on top of it, but if you're making a chicken or fish dish, the flavors will go together perfectly.
If you braise it in some orange juice and add some pomegranate seeds to it, you have the perfect side dish. Cook it in a pan with some clams or sausage (or why not both?) to get a lot of different textures in the same bite! If you caramelize it, it becomes a great topping for the healthier side of pasta dishes. And you know what? If you're in a pinch for time, then just add some lovely meat, chicken or pork mostly, to a baking dish, some largely sliced fennel, and some seasoning, and you'll soon be good to go!